One of Amtrak’s new ACS-64 locomotives.
The bike racks ARE (finally) coming! They’ve been in the works for a long time, but were contingent on Amtrak getting new baggage cars, as opposed to retrofitting the existing cars. And the new cars are finally on the way.
BUT, there are some potential problems with how it is set up now if you want to use a baggage car and your route isn’t directly served by the route. What’s that mean? If you want to go WAS-NYC, BAL-PGH, PHL-BOS your options are limited. Read on!
I should note that how it’ll actually work in practice has yet to be determined. These cars aren’t in service and how they’ll be used hasn’t been finalized. There was one trial on the Capitol Limited which purportedly went well.
First, you’ll still have to go to a destination that has baggage service. This means that if you want to ride the GAP or C&O, you’ll have to get off at Pittsburgh. Harper’s Ferry, Connellsville and Cumberland don’t have baggage service. Not sure if this will change, but I’d really doubt it for Connellsville, since there aren’t any employees at that station.
The GAP trail between Pittsburgh and Connellsville.
The REAL big catch with this depends on where you are boarding and where you are going. If you’re going to New Orleans on the Crescent, or DC-Pittsburgh, then it’s not a problem. If you want to travel with a bike on the Northeast Corridor (from DC/BAL to Philadelphia, New York, Boston, etc.), then it becomes troublesome. Likewise if you are boarding somewhere besides DC and intending to go to Pittsburgh. If you want to travel within the domain of the Northeast Regional trains with a bike you currently only have two options for baggage service - Amtrak 79 (the Carolinian) southbound, and Amtrak 66 (Northeast Regional) northbound. 79 leaves Baltimore at 9.45AM. 66 leaves Baltimore at 10.53PM.
This also means that if you want to board somewhere besides DC to head towards Pittsburgh, you’ll have to use 66 or 79. As of now, you typically can’t board one of the long distance trains if your destination is on the corridor. Even calling guest services, they wouldn’t let me pretend book on of the long distance trains within the corridor. I’m getting conflicting information on this - Amtrak’s twitter says you can’t get baggage service on the corridor, the online service will let you sometimes (you can book the southbound Cardinal, NYC-ALX, but not NYC-WAS, and can’t book the northbound Cardinal to NYC from either location), and guest services told me about baggage services on 66 and 79. Please note that Amtrak 66 is a northeast regional train, and not this handsome locomotive:
One of the Amtrak Heritage units
In sum, if your route is only served by a long distance train, everything is fine (once the new cars get here). If you have to transfer to a long distance train, you have limited options. If you want to travel within the domain of the Northeast Regional trains, you have one option in each direction.
Again, this program isn’t in place and things may change once the cars enter revenue service, but I think it would be a good idea to politely express your concern to Amtrak that cyclists can’t currently access many of these trains with baggage cars. I understand the underlying reason — these trains have worse on-time performance than the NER trains and being discharge only helps speed up the trains if they are running behind, but being able to call and book these trains, and reserve a bike spot would be great.
My Brompton and a Norfolk Southern engine at Washington Union station.
And please let me know if anything I’ve said here is incorrect, but it is accurate, AFAIK.
And this is all moot if you have a folding bike :) Folding bikes are always allowed on any Amtrak train.
My Brompton is fond of trains.